Who else is growing annoyed at Forest Park's board of commissioners?
Mayor Anthony Calderone says he wants to engage on issues, but he takes criticism on the issues as personal attacks. At times Calderone worries about bizarre conspiracies, while accusing his critics of doing the same. Commissioner Patrick Doolin is usually right on the issues, but he can't help but take a cheap shot whenever Calderone leaves an opening.
Commissioner Theresa Steinbach plays the outraged pander-bear on stuff like senior water bills, casting self-serving, but otherwise meaningless, votes of dissent. Commissioner and Township Trustee Tim Gillian has contempt for the idea that government should serve the constituents unless it's somehow also serving his political bosses. Commissioner Mark Hosty is the one voice among the council majority who is at times willing to vote against the party line, but too often allows himself to be cast in the role of attack dog, hurling insults and accusations when professionalism is needed.
How much longer until the elections? April, 2007. Ten more months? Oy vey.
If I consulted with a campaign, this is what I'd recommend campaigning on. And I do hope we get some new blood after the election.
First do no harm. Madison Street has a thriving business community. Mayor Anthony Calderone has positive relations with most in the business community. The new mayor should work to cultivate positive relations with the business owners. The new mayor and commissioners should not implement any big changes that will derail the good things that are happening.
Good order and discipline in the police department. The Forest Park Police Department suffers from a lack of good order and discipline. This is a direct result of pettiness and poor leadership of Mayor Calderone and Police Chief Jim Ryan.
Ryan put Lt. Michael Cody in charge of internal investigations. Previously Cody became famous for being convicted of assaulting another officer on the force.
Think about how bad this looks. The guy in charge of investigating misconduct by Forest Park police officers was convicted of misconduct himselfâ€"misconduct against another member of the police force. What would reasonable people infer about how Ryan and Calderone see misconduct investigations?
The disciplinary system, it seems, is being used to enforce loyalty. Minor allegations against officers disliked by Calderone and Ryan resulted in drastic disciplinary measures. Serious allegations against loyalist officers resulted in minor discipline or no discipline at all. Sgt. Mike Murphy, for example, has been alleged to have engaged in numerous incidents of brutality. His wife, Dora, is the administrative assistant to Chief Ryan. Is this why his alleged violations are not taken as seriously as the actions of those who have opposed Ryan and Calderone?
Roosevelt Road. The citizens of south Forest Park justifiably feel neglected with all the attention going to Madison Street. Forest Park should continue to work the federal government to get the Naval reserve center closed. Developing this land could be the beginning of positive developments all along Roosevelt.
New development. Forest Park should implement guidelines for handling development decisions. Tasteful development should be encouraged. Inappropriate development should be defined. The more clearly good and bad development are defined the less acrimony and bad faith hearings the community will have to endure.
District 209. Last year Proviso Township High Schools spent $14,093 per student. A few years ago an analysis showed Forest Park sends $50,000 of property tax revenue to District 209 for each Forest Park student. Forest Parkers are paying for a high school system we're not using and it's not fair. I recommend pursuing at least two strategies.
Part of the reason District 209 fails to perform is that political bosses like Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore and Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico have used it as a cash cow. They make money off of contracts and insurance and employ many of their patronage workers there. Plenty of the stuff being done is illegal and in the open. But Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine considers Serpico and Moore political allies. Devine's office has neglected to enforce the law.
Forest Park should hold the State's Attorney accountable. The Mayor of Forest Park should get in his face and say that we expect to be protected from predatory politicians who break the law. And if Devine is going to look the other way or side with the law breakers, Forest Park is going to make an issue of it. Same goes for the State Board of Education and the Cook County Regional Superintendent.
Currently Illinois law requires that for Forest Park to secede from District 209, we need to show there will be no adverse financial effect on the district. Well, of course there will be an adverse effect on the district. We're paying four times our share!
Forest Park should work within District 209 to improve all three high schools, but at some point, if District 209 hasn't improved substantially, Forest Park should be granted a divorce. If District 209 continues to sabotage the education of students, why should Forest Park be forced to participate?
Forest Park has a bright future. But we need visionary, courageous leadership. Perhaps one or two of our current commissioners can provide new leadership, but they've got to get beyond the pettiness.